“Plenty of speculation about England squad, but rest assured this and TheFA.com will be the first place you hear confirmation of final 23.” As tweeted by thefadotcom on Twitter.
Well, not quite. The Football Association issued its official statement at 16:00 hours – one hour later than planned and about several hours later than “unofficial” Twitter sources had revealed the news.
Sports journalists such as Neil Ashton (News of the World), Matt Law (Daily Express) and Scott Wilson (Northern Echo) made use of the microblogging website to inform their followers of the latest scoops, even before mainstream sources such as the BBC website (which aggregated relevant tweets in a live feed) and the FA published the official list.
As Jonathan Stevenson from the BBC live feed accurately pointed out, it was history in the making: the 2010 England World Cup squad was being revealed on Twitter by well-informed journalists instead of an official source.
The two spikes in the graph above indicate the days on which the keywords “World Cup Squad”, “England Squad”, and “Capello” became trending topics, peaking at nearly 10,000 tweets combined. The first peak took place on May 11, when the provisional 30-man squad was named, the second on June 1, when the final 23 were selected by Fabio Capello. Note how the social media profile of odd-man-out Theo Walcott reflects his shock exclusion.
Social media is clearly a threat to the very idea of an “official source”. Even if you can prevent journalists from scooping information, those involved in the actual events can accidentally give it away by tapping a few words on their Smartphones.
And while there may be some qualms about a media increasingly driven by endless speculation and spiralling scoop obsessions, the desire to know will always prevail over respect for privacy or authority. It’s EP 101.
So how can the “official sources” beat the speed at which information travels? Well, with the only thing that can match that speed. No, not Theo, but information itself. 30 players in the same room stripped of their gadgets – and the manager first out to face the cameras.
For more social World Cup comment, check out our Top 10 UK Football blogs.